The Source’s big, honkin’ 2013 roundup post has landed; take it, it’s yours

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UPDATE TUESDAY, 12:55 p.m.: I added a few items concerning Metro’s bike program that are worth putting on the record! :) 

Above is the very nice rainbow seen Thursday afternoon over East Los Angeles and County-USC Medical Center. Will there be a rainbow over Metro in 2014? Stay tuned for that, folks.

As for 2013, here are some of the highlights:

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Metro debuted a new “under construction” map in June, which proceeded to skip happily across the internet. Metro currently has 87 miles of rail lines and that number will pass 100 once the projects shown on the map are completed.

•In February, the ExpressLanes projected opened on the 10 freeway between downtown Los Angeles and the 605 freeway, joining the lanes that had opened on the 110 in Nov. 2012.

Perhaps the big news on the ExpressLanes front was the Metro Board of Director’s decision last spring to suspend account maintenance fees. Although the fees applied to relatively few existing customers at the time, there seemed to be a positive reaction from the public — by late summer more than 200,000 transponders had been issued, twice the number expected before the lanes opened on the 10 and 110.

Next year will be a big one for the ExpressLanes as the Metro Board is scheduled to decide whether to continue the pilot program or not.

In a pronounced nod to transit etiquette, Metro introduced platform decals in February in an effort to get passengers boarding trains to stand aside in order to allow passengers to disembark from the train.

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The reaction by many Metro customers: that’s nice but what about decals to show people to stand on the right on escalators?

•It was a big year for one of those Metro Rail projects, with the Metro Board of Directors approving a $1.27-billion contract in June to for the final design and construction of the 8.5-mile Crenshaw/LAX Line light rail line. Earlier in the year, the Board — in a deal brokered by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and then-Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa — had decided to add two optional stations to the project — one serving Leimert Park and the other at Hindry Avenue to serve nearby Westchester.

•The second phase of the Expo Line and the Gold Line Foothill Extension both are about halfway complete with work proceeding smoothly on both of the Measure R-funded projects.

Track work near Overland Avenue earlier this fall. Photo by Expo Line Construction Authority.

Track work near Overland Avenue earlier this fall. Photo by Expo Line Construction Authority.

Work crews working on the bridge over Palm Drive in Azusa. Photo: Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority.

Work crews working on the bridge over Palm Drive in Azusa. Photo: Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority.

•Meanwhile, utility relocation and other exploratory work continued in advanced of construction on the Regional Connector and the Purple Line Extension subway.

Metro contractors in October looking for tiebacks -- anchors that help support building foundations.

Metro contractors in October looking for tiebacks — anchors that help support building foundations.

•Early in the year, the Board approved a contract to provide cell phone service in underground stations. The contract was recently signed and work will soon begin; complete installation is expected to take 24 months.

•In March, a new ‘share the road’ poster debuted and was widely praised by the cycling community. A T-shirt with the design on it is available in the new Metro store that opened in December.

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Metro released draft alternatives for the Los Angeles Union Station master plan in May. In October, the Metro Board approved going forward with a concept that would construct a greatly expanded east-west passenger concourse while relocating the bus plaza to a north-south configuration closer to Alameda Street that would also consolidate many of the bus stops around Union Station. The final master plan is scheduled to be considered by the board in the latter half of 2014.

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Zipcars finally landed at Union Station in March.

Gate latching finally got underway in June, beginning with the Red/Purple Line. By year’s end, five Gold Line and five Blue Line stations were also latched. Gates on the Green Line will be latched in early 2014.

More frequent late night service was added to the Expo, Gold and Orange lines in June.

•Los Angeles got a new mayor on July 1, meaning the Metro Board also got a new member — Mayor Eric Garcetti. He subsequently announced his three appointees to the Board: Councilman Mike Bonin, Councilman Paul Krekorian, and Jackie Dupont-Walker.

•The 2014 Metro Call for Projects (CFP) grant cycle awarded approximately $199 million to highway, transit, and active transportation projects across Los Angeles County. A record 43 applications were submitted for bike projects and about $27 million was awarded to 17 of them in L.A. County and the following cities: Los Angeles, Redondo Beach, Burbank, Pico Rivera, Culver City, Calabasas, Whittier, Long Beach, Rosemead, La Verne, Arcadia, Lawndale, Temple City, Santa Monica and El Monte.

•In October, in an introductory video for the annual Mobility 21 conference, Mayor Garcetti said that another transportation ballot measure is possible in Los Angeles County and that connecting Los Angeles International Airport to Metro Rail is among his highest priorities.

•In July, Metro released its review of a Beverly Hills Unified School District consultant memo that challenged the agency’s rationale for choosing the Constellation site for the Purple Line Extension ’s Century City station. The gist of it: Metro defended its prior work that determined that Santa Monica Boulevard was an inappropriate location for a subway station due to the location of active earthquake faults.

In the meantime, lawsuits by the city of Beverly Hills and the Beverly Hills Unified School District against Metro and the Federal Transit Administration challenging the project’s environmental studies continue to proceed through the courts.

•Rail cars with a new exterior design debuted in August on the Blue and Expo lines.

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•Metro held a media event in September in hopes of stopping a rash of suicides along the Blue Line over the past couple of years. Signs were also installed along the Metro Rail system with information on where people could get suicide crisis help.

•In October, the Board approved 40 percent of the funds generated from the ExpressLanes project to be invested in active transportation projects within three-miles of the project area. The projected $16 to $19 million will help to improve transportation options, air quality, congestion reduction, and improved access for all users.

•Metro staff this fall issued a report that refined the alternatives for the East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor project. They are: peak hour bus lanes along the curb of Van Nuys Boulevard, a bus lane in the center of Van Nuys Boulevard, a low-floor light rail line in the middle of Van Nuys Boulevard and a light rail line that would require passenger platforms in the middle of Van Nuys Boulevard. The draft environmental study for the project is expected to be complete in 2014.

•In September, the Metro Board approved spending $2 million annually for events similar to CicLAvia throughout Los Angeles County. The funds will be available beginning next year on a competitive basis.

•The I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project managed to open several components of the project this year, including a 1.7-mile segment of the new northbound carpool lane, the new Wilshire flyover ramps and the new northbound off-ramp to Sunset Boulevard — just this past week — the new Mulholland Bridge, the direct descendent of Carmageddon I and II.

The new eastbound Wilshire to northbound 405 flyover on-ramp. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

The new eastbound Wilshire to northbound 405 flyover on-ramp. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

The new Mulholland Bridge. Photo by Dave Sotero/Metro.

The new Mulholland Bridge. Photo by Dave Sotero/Metro.

•In November, a Metro Board committee discussed the need for fare restructuring, which is expected to be formally proposed and considered in the first half of 2014. Among options that agency staff discussed are unlimited rides on a single fare for a certain time period (for example, an hour or 90 minutes), different fares for peak and off-peak hours and a simplified zone structure and/or offering flat fares for zoned buses.

•In December, a connection was built linking the newly renovated El Monte Station and the popular Rio Hondo Bicycle Path, making it far more easier for walkers and cyclists to reach one of Metro’s primary transit hubs.

And that’s pretty much the highlights as the sun sets on 2013 — please leave a comment if I left anything significant out.

A profound thank you to everyone for reading, riding and writing us with your questions, concerns and comments this past year. After our usual holiday breather, we’re looking forward to explaining what YOUR government is doing in 2014.

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year,

Steve

A lovely November evening as seen from the Metro mothership. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

A lovely November evening as seen from the Metro mothership. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

4.4 miles of new carpool lanes officially opened on 10 freeway between 605 and Puente Ave.

Caltrans and Metro on Thursday morning officially dedicated 2.2 miles of HOV lanes in both directions on the 10 freeway between the 605 freeway and Puente Avenue in Baldwin Park.

The lanes cost $180 million.

“As the transportation funding authority for Los Angeles County, Metro programmed $192 million for completion of this first of three segments of the I-10 carpool lanes,” said Diane DuBois, the chair of Metro’s Board of Directors. “We are pleased Caltrans delivered this project under the programmed budget. Metro also has programmed the funds for the remaining two HOV lane segments for a total of $560 million.”

The project is the first of three segments that will provide one continuous carpool lane on the 10 freeway between downtown Los Angeles and the boundary with San Bernardino County.

Here is the most recent version of Caltrans’ map showing HOV lanes in Los Angeles County:

LA County HOV System Status 09_2012

 

Photos and more: track installation underway on second phase of the Expo Line

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Good morning, Metro customers and Other Interested Parties! I was out of town for a few day and am in catch-up mode. The following news release and above photos are courtesy of the Expo Line Construction Authority, the agency using Measure R funds to build the project’s second phase between Culver City and Santa Monica.

EXPO PHASE 2 TRACK INSTALLATION UNDERWAY

With bridges and stations making great progress, the Expo Phase 2 project has moved into a new, exciting phase with the start of track installation. More than 30 miles of rail are being installed along the alignment between Culver City and Santa Monica by SRJV’s subcontractor Herzog-Delta, a team with over 100 years combined experience in the railroading industry.

The first Expo Line track crossings were installed at Westwood Boulevard and Overland Avenue in West Los Angeles last month. Santa Monica saw the first track installed earlier this week at 11th Street, where an extended street closure will continue through Sunday, December 15 at 11:00 p.m. Approximately a half mile of rail has been installed so far, and additional track crossings will be scheduled starting January 2014.

Rick Thorpe, CEO of the Exposition Construction Authority noted, “Track installation is a tangible sign of major progress on the project. We’re excited to move into this new phase and remain focused on completing construction in 2015.”

For additional information regarding construction activities, please contact the Expo hotline at (213) 922-EXPO (3976) or visit http://www.buildexpo.org.

Service on Phase 1 of the Expo Line began in Spring 2012. Construction on Phase 2 is expected to be complete in 2015. The Expo Line will bring greater mobility to the region by connecting West Los Angeles to the region’s existing rail network. These communities are traditionally underserved by public transportation and among the most traffic-congested in the nation.

New USC study on the Expo Line finds those living near the line are driving less

USC Expo Line report by sourcemetro

The new study is above and the news release from USC is below.

The results are certainly encouraging and suggest that a new transit project can influence the behavior of those who live nearby. I think it’s also worth noting that the sample size wasn’t huge — 200 households. I also was struck by the finding that use of the Expo Line was higher among households that were both near the rail line and frequent bus service.

I expect that Expo Line ridership will rise when the second phase between Culver City and Santa Monica opens — at this time that’s forecast for early 2016 — if service is fast and frequent.

Expo Line Drives Drop in Driving

Residents living near Exposition Light Rail stations drove 10 to 12 fewer miles daily, tripled rail ridership after line’s opening, new USC study finds

Dec. 16, 2013 – Angelenos who live near an Exposition Light Rail station dramatically reduced the number of miles they drove and tripled their rail ridership after the opening of the new rail line last year, a new USC study released Monday shows.

Residents living within a half-mile of the new station traveled 10 to 12 fewer miles daily by car – a 40 percent decrease – after the new rail line opened, according to the study.

That same group also tripled their rate of rail travel, from an average of one daily rail trip per household before the Expo Line opened to almost three daily household rail trips after it opened, according to the report.

“Los Angeles has made a large commitment to rail transit, and this study is the best evidence to date that persons near rail lines are driving less,” said lead author Marlon Boarnet, a professor with the USC Price School of Public Policy. “People have been wondering if anyone will change their travel habits in the wake of more rail transit, and this says the answer is clearly yes.”

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California Transportation Commission allocates $152 million for transportation

Here’s the news release from Caltrans:

Continuing the push to rebuild California’s infrastructure and spur job growth, the California Transportation Commission (CTC) has made new allocations totaling $152 million to 36 projects statewide. This latest round of funding drives the total amount of transportation funding allocated in 2013 beyond the $3 billion barrier.

“The billions in funding we’ve invested in transportation has kept workers on the job building better roads, bridges, rail, and transit that will benefit California for decades to come,” said Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty.

In 2013, Los Angeles received $26 million to improve the Port of Los Angeles; $20 million to widen Interstate 5 from the Orange County Line to the I-5/I-605 junction; and $28 million was distributed for the Exposition Light Rail Project between Culver City and Santa Monica.

In the Bay Area this year, $91 million in Proposition 1B funds were directed to the Doyle Drive Replacement Project, which is building a modern, seismically-safe roadway, the Presidio Parkway, south of the Golden Gate Bridge. This fall, Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) received $140 million from Proposition 1A, the high-speed rail bond, to purchase 46 new rail cars that will provide new service from the BART/Caltrain Millbrae Station directly to San Francisco International Airport.

In June, $158 million was allocated to the Cajon Pass Rehabilitation Project to repave 126 lane miles on State Route 215, and nearly $47 million was reserved in October to add carpool lanes on Interstate 5 in Orange County.

Almost $97 million was previously approved this year for the State Route 4 Crosstown Freeway Extension in Stockton, and Sacramento received $38 million to repair a bridge on U.S. Highway 50 near the Sacramento River used by more than 200,000 vehicles daily.

The $152 million in new allocations includes $16 million from Proposition 1B, a 2006 voter-approved transportation bond. To date, more than $17 billion in Proposition 1B funds have been put to work statewide for transportation purposes. The remaining $136 million in new allocations came from various state and federal transportation accounts.

Highlights of the new funding allocations include:

  • $6.5 million to the City of Los Angeles for an automated traffic control system that provides responsive signal control based on real-time traffic conditions.
  • $2.3 million to the City of Long Beach for a bike-share program, which includes 500 bikes, docking stations, kiosks and signage.
  • $1.3 million to the Southern California Regional Rail Authority for safety improvements to the Branford Street grade crossing.

For information about all projects that received new allocations please see the attached file.

Actions taken by the Metro Board of Directors today

The final Metro Board of Directors meeting of the year was a low-key affair. Perhaps of the most interest to everyday riders were motions approved concerning restrooms at stations, parking at stations and fare evasion along the Orange Line — more about those in this previous post.

Here are some of the actions taken today:

•On consent, the Board approved a $1.64-million contract with STV/Parsons Brinckerhoff for consulting services to help draw up specifications for the eventual procurement for new subway cars.

•On consent, the Board approved a new policy to govern requests from cities, third parties and other stakeholders for changes to transportation projects after they have been approved by the Board. The gist of the new policy: the modifications should not delay the project or increase its budget unless funding is identified. This one falls under the wonky but important category as a lot of these requests do come in after project construction is underway.

•On consent, the Board approved a Memorandum of Understanding between Metro and Los Angeles World Airports for changes to the Crenshaw/LAX Line’s Aviation/Century project that could help improve connections to future airport facilities such as a consolidated rental car facility or a people mover:

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•On consent, the Board approved a $6.17-million contract with ARINC, Inc. to provide a new computer software and hardware that provide “centralized control and/or monitoring of train movement, traction and auxiliary power, fire detection and suppression, gas detection, emergency tunnel and ancillary ventilation” and other communication systems.

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Metro Board of Directors meeting is underway; here’s the agenda

Good morning! The gavel just thwacked the tabletop, setting in motion the final Metro Board of Directors meeting of 2013.

The 13-member Board serve as the final deciders of most things Metro. Learn more about them here.

The agenda is above. If you are not one of the lucky ones who can attend the meeting in person, listen in by phoning 213-922-6045.

December Metro Service Council meetings preview

Metro Service Council agendas are set for December, including one special meeting in a different location. Service Council meetings kick off today (Wednesday, December 4), in the San Fernando Valley at the Marvin BraudeCenter in Van Nuys.

The San Gabriel Valley Service Council will be conducting their December meeting at an alternate location – The Alhambra, located at 1000 South Freemont (northeast corner of Freemont and W Mission Rd) in Building A2, on the lower floor, room 2051. This meeting will include a special workshop to discuss options to improve service on Metro Line 485, which serves the communities of Alhambra, South Pasadena, Pasadena and Altadena. The Council is hoping the public will participate and share their ideas about improving service on the line. The meeting starts at5 pm, on Monday, December 9. Next month the San Gabriel Valley Service Council will return to their regular meeting location in El Monte.

All of the other Metro Service Councils will conduct their meetings on their regular schedules, as indicated below. Please note that some of the presentations listed below are tentative at the time of this posting. All meetings will include a report from Metro Service Council Director Jon Hillmer, who will provide statistics on October ridership, performance and other measures of Metro service. Other agenda items at Council meetings include:

San Fernando Valley (6:30 pm, Wednesday, 12/4)  – Presentation on proposed June 2014 service changes and approval of public hearing date, time and location; Discussion on the approval of rescheduling or cancellation of the Council’s January meeting (which is scheduled for January 1); Presentation on the New Bus Purchases Distribution Plan; Update on the Lassen Bridge closure.

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Here’s a video from SoCal’s first pop-up street design event


A few months ago, Santa Monica held a pop-up street improvement event to show how Michigan Avenue Neighborhood Greenway (MANGo) can be improved. The event was very successful, with numerous participants stopping by and providing feedback.

Check out the above video to see the temporary installations featured at the event, including traffic calming devices, curb extensions, enhanced landscaping, places for neighbors to gather and wayfinding signage.

Metro Board to consider motions involving restrooms, parking and paying fares at transit stations

Motions involving bathrooms at transit stations (or lack thereof), parking at transit stations (or lack thereof) and fares on the Orange Line (or lack of people actually paying for them) have all found their way onto the agenda for the Metro Board of Directors meeting this Thursday.

In particular, the bathroom and parking issues are brought up on a regular basis by readers here and, quite frankly, are also core service issues that most large transit agencies grapple with at some time or another.

Let me be blunt. None of these issues are going to be solved at this Board meeting. As you will see below, each motions call for more study and/or reports from Metro staff. That said, motions are sometimes the beginning of a process.

Obviously the motion is keyed to some specific issues that have arisen near the Orange Line’s Pierce College station. But bathrooms and transit stations have a long, tangled history that is still, of course, being written.

Bathrooms at transit stations are in many cities a thing of the past, mostly for reasons involving maintenance and safety, although some BART and New York Subway stations have restrooms. Here’s an excerpt from a 2010 amNewYork story on bathrooms in the subway system:

Of the open bathrooms, a third were frightening caverns of garbage, urine, standing water or unseemly smells. Odors from the Astoria-Ditmars Blvd. station on the N caused an amNewYork reporter to feel faint during a recent visit.

“They’re pretty disgusting. People are always cleaning themselves in there and doing other stuff,” said Kelvin Pau, 27, a rider using the 168 St. A station, which reeked.

Don’t expect to find toilet paper or soap, as few of the bathrooms had either. And while graffiti has largely been eliminated from subway stations, it lives on in the bathrooms, as many of the walls and stalls were covered in tags.

Keeping the bathrooms tidy and open is a challenge because they are constantly being vandalized or attract “criminal activity,” Seaton said.

Metro has three transit stations with restrooms: Union Station, El Monte Station and Harbor Gateway. The vast majority do not.

Restrooms in transit stations is a subject that has been written about a lot. Here’s a good article about the issue from the Atlantic Cities blog. It will be interesting to see how Metro staff responds to this one, as building more restrooms and then maintaining and patrolling them would be a major undertaking.

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